Great engineering includes more than engineering

Integrator Update: Is that really an apples-to-apples quote comparison? System integration firms have audits based on best practices and benchmarks to ensure business and professional services are at the highest level. A 25-year-old association for education and information sharing helps.

By Stephen M. Goldberg November 10, 2019

When seeking control system integration services, manufacturers usually want the best solution at the lowest price. The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) offers certification to help ensure the comparison is apples to apples and that the lowest price is likely the best price. CSIA Certified Control System Integration companies and the independent certification companies use the CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks, revision five, when auditing a member company for compliance.

[subhead] CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks

Companies determined on improving businesses submit to multiple audits to certify that businesses are performing services at the highest level of business and professional practice. Over the years, many CSIA members have contributed to the Best Practices and Benchmarks document, providing information needed to keep their businesses expertly tuned for all areas, including:

  1. General management: Strategic management, organizational structure, facilities and equipment, computer systems management and corporate risk management
  2. Human resources management: Administration, recruitment and selection, performance management, training and development, compensation and benefits and employee communication
  3. Marketing, business development and sales management: Marketing plan, sales strategy
  4. Financial management: Measures of performance, financial planning, billing procedures and tax policy
  5. Project management, contract management, procurement management, planning, risk management, resource management, communications management, scope management, schedule management, budget management, change management, quality management and closure
  6. System development lifecycle: Internal kickoff, requirements, design, development, unit/module and integration testing, factory acceptance testing, system shipping, installation, commissioning and site acceptance testing
  7. Supporting activities: Process development and maintenance, standards and templates, project methodologies, procurement management, risk management, configuration management and reuse management
  8. Quality management: Continuous measurable improvement, client satisfaction measurement, client service and project quality assurance
  9. Service and support: Strategic management, organizational structure, methodology and service management
  10. Information systems management and cybersecurity: Information systems management, facilities and equipment and cybersecurity.

CSIA experiences, sharing

CSIA is important because manufacturers throughout the world have always needed help from contractors, consultants and system integrators to complete projects on time and within budget. Engineers and project managers at these corporations may only deal with one or two major projects a year. System integrators can deal with hundreds of projects per year. System integration firms have project managers, designers and engineers dealing with all aspects of projects from pre-engineering through support agreements.

As manufacturing companies continue to shrink teams to improve the bottom line, more manufacturers need help. CSIA assembles the owners of many system integrators from around the world to share stories on how to succeed. System integrators also share what they learned from failures, to learn from mistakes, rather than repeat them.

CSIA education

Looking at the CSIA Executive Conference presentations from 1994 compared to 2019, there are similarities. Most sessions this year have resonating themes. In 1994, some session titles and presenters included:

  • Pursuit of total customer satisfaction through world class leadership — Carlton Braun
  • Managing your most important asset: Selecting, motivating and evaluating your people — Tom Welch
  • Trends in the marketplace: What is coming up in technology, and how can we prepare? — Alan Laduzinsky
  • Tutorial on preparing your own home page — John Robertson
  • New account penetration: What works? — Don McShanog
  • Improving CSIA’s professional image — Bob Zeigenfuse
  • Recognizing and managing stress in the workplace and at home — Alp Yurdakul
  • Business software program/results of CSIA member survey — Doug Alward and Fred Pieplow.

In 2019 CSIA Executive Conference sessions covered:

  • Trends in HMI/SCADA: Intelligent user interfaces, rapid application development and IoT enablement — Ranbir Saini
  • Smart content marketing for engineers — Wendy Covey and Jennifer Dawkins
  • Project management practices that produce results — Nancy Westby
  • Best practices and lessons learned in an agile transformation — Jeff Miller
  • Optimizing tax savings post tax reform — Sarah Russell
  • Can you SCRUM an automation project: What worked, and what didn’t work? — Nigel James
  • Onboarding the next generation of leaders — Panel of presenters
  • Couples in business: Pains and pleasure — Luigi De Bernardini.

CSIA: Learning from history

At the 25-year anniversary of CSIA having conferences for system integrators and their vendors, there were at least two toasts by founding members who also attended the first conference. As further reminder of those who blazed the trail, both appeared on the first page of the 1996 conference agenda. Pat Miller and Bob Zeigenfuse were active members from the beginning and remain active today.

The founding members, with the help of Charlie Bergman, who established the organization, helped to start a group that has enabled business owners to learn some hard lessons about improving and growing their businesses, without experiencing the pain that others went through. In 1996, then-member Tom Wilson, presented “Anatomy of a Nose-dive.” This was the origin of some of the most attended sessions in recent conferences, entitled: “Lessons from touching a hot stove.” Tom Wilson, no doubt, in part, because of sharing that presentation, was the first recipient of the Charlie Bergman “Remember Me” award. Bergman espoused the thought process that “For every two pieces of information you share (with your competitors), you will get ten pieces back.”

Every year, educational sessions are designed to help improve system integrators’ businesses by providing instruction in various sections of today’s “Best Practices and Benchmarks,” originally created by members of the organization in the late 1990s.

In the 25 years since that first conference, member companies have come and gone, but thanks to Charlie Bergman and the founding members, those companies investing in continuous improvement are still around and thriving today. From the 28 people that attended the conference in 1994 to the 534 attendees that attended the conference this year, there must be some very good reasons why CSIA and its integration members get stronger every year.

Stephen M. Goldberg is a senior project engineer, Matrix Technologies Inc., which is a system integrator established in 1980 and a founding and certified member of the Control System Integrator Association (CSIA). CSIA is a CFE Media Content Partner. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

KEYWORDS: System integrators, best practices

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Stephen M. Goldberg
Author Bio: Steve Goldberg, senior project engineer in the manufacturing systems and software division of Matrix Technologies Inc., has more than 30 years of experience in industrial manufacturing and diverse knowledge of processes including those involving food, chemicals, metals, and consumer products. He joined Matrix Technologies Inc. in 1985 and served as executive director of CSIA (Control System Integrators Association) for two years. Goldberg was recognized with CSIA’s highest award, the Charlie Bergman Award. See more about Matrix Technologies in the Global System Integrator Database.